We are holistic beings and our health is multifaceted. Mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health are inextricably interlinked. Enhance your personal wellbeing by integrating these 9 dimensions of health.
8 Dimensions of Health
1. Movement: The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. There are many forms of movement to choose from, including dance, yoga, hiking, biking, lifting weights, ultimate frisbee, swimming, rock climbing, HIIT, running, soccer, basketball, and more! Exercise enhances your overall health, and has even been shown to ease anxiety and depression symptoms. If you’re just getting started, I recommend moving in a way that you most enjoy, and building up from there.
2. Nourishment: I prefer the word “nourishment” to diet! There are many “diet” fads out there. However, in general, it’s good to have a colorful diet rich in vitamins and nutrients from fruits and vegetables, with a balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Supplementation can also be helpful, especially if you have deficiencies. (Vitamin D, in particular, is especially important in the winter to mitigate seasonal affective symptoms). Talk to a medical professional to learn more about balance for your body and situation.
3. Sleep and Rest: The Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Adequate sleep is essential for all levels of functioning, including memory, productivity, immune system support, and essential repair. It is also recommended to get some kind of rest or stillness during the day, like a nap, meditation, a body scan, guided yoga nidra, or restorative yoga. If you’d like to learn how to meditate, do a body scan, or do yoga nidra, you can always ask me!
4. Relationships: Humans are social creatures by nature, and healthy relationships are vital to mental and emotional health. In fact, relationships can improve health and increase longevity. Lack of strong social relationships can increase the risk of early mortality by 50%, and is even more harmful than lack of physical activity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day! Therapy can help you have more fulfilling relationships by learning to relate to others from a space of compassion, communicate more clearly, voice your needs, set boundaries, heal underlying wounds that are harming your relationships, and have greater clarity about how you’re showing up.
5. Spirituality: You can find spirituality in your religion (if you have one), but you don’t necessarily need to be religious to be spiritual. Spirituality involves having a connection to something beyond yourself. It can be a key component to your health by providing a sense of community, meaning, peace, and unity. Our therapy work can lean on your spirituality as a key component in your personal growth journey. Some of my clients report having mystical experiences in sessions, and strengthen their spiritual connection in therapy, whatever that means to them.
6. Fun and Relaxation: Stress and burnout are unfortunately very common. Working extremely hard is currently a strong part of American culture. Our culture sometimes even discounts the benefits, enjoyment, and essential need of fun and relaxation. But fun, relaxation, and play are an important part of health! This is especially true if you are stressed, overworked, or burnt out.
7. Meaning and Purpose: Research has shown that having meaning and purpose in your life enhances your mental and physical health. Meaning and purpose can come in many different forms. You can find it through your job, advocacy, volunteering, relationships, parenthood, creativity, or other hobbies. If you’re currently struggling to find meaning or purpose, therapy can help you on this path.
8. Mental and Emotional Wellbeing: Therapy can have a very significant impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing. Therapy helps you gain self awareness, learn more about and set healthy boundaries, have self-compassion, access inner wisdom, get to know your core self, and love and heal every part of yourself. This has ripple effects on every other area of your health. It also makes it easier to take care of other areas of your health. It’s much easier to eat healthy or exercise, for example, when you feel good on the inside!
9. Environmental Wellness: When you are environmentally well, you feel connected to, safe, and at peace with your environment around you. This includes feeling safe and secure in your home and like your home environment suits your needs. This also includes having a connection to the natural world, and regularly spending time in nature. Some people also believe that it is important to reduce toxins and contaminants. They may do this by switching to organic foods, buying natural personal care products, and regularly inspecting their home for issues like mold. Some people will take their environmental wellness a step further and actively improve their environment and community by participating in trash pickups or donating to environmental organizations.
Balanced, Compassionate Transformation
If you find yourself strongly lacking in any of these areas, you will likely find that your mental health improves if you are able to experience more balance. I recommend keeping these 8 dimensions of health in mind as you work towards better mental wellness.
Depending on your current life circumstances, you may feel like your health is pretty balanced. Conversely, you may be struggling in some of these areas. You might even be beating yourself up for not doing “enough!” I am a strong advocate for self-compassion when taking care of your health. Most of the time, you’re doing the best you can, the best way you know how. By accessing your compassionate inner nature and loving and healing any parts of you that struggle with any area of your health, prioritizing the various dimensions of health will feel easier. If this is something you struggle to do, therapy can help you with this.
For now, focus on what you feel like you CAN do, rather than on what you can’t. Celebrate the small changes, and know that any improvement you make in any area will have a cumulative effect.
Personal Reflection: Life Balance Wheel
If you’d like to make a reflective visual representation of these different areas of your life, try making a “life balance wheel.” (Click here to see some examples!) Draw a circle on a piece of paper, and divide it into 9 sections, like a pie. Then, label each section with an area of your life. Rate the health of each area of your life between 0 (this area is poor or completely missing) to 10 (this area is optimal!) Place a dot somewhere along the pie piece, with a 0 going on the center of the circle, and a 10 at the edge.
Then, look at your life balance wheel. Reflect on which areas of your life could use the most care. Brainstorm 3-5 things you could do to care for these areas more deeply, focusing on the things that feel doable for you right now. Once you've incorporated these changes into your life, you can return to this activity again to celebrate the changes and see what the next doable steps are.
I hope you found this post helpful! See you in session,